Thursday, November 17, 2011

When Sheryl Crow Is Funky, Murky And Dark, She Makes A Great Album: The Globe Sessions.

The Good: Generally decent lyrics, Very repeatable, Good instrumentals, Memorable vocals and tunes
The Bad: Derivative in places, Somewhat repetitive musically
The Basics: Articulate and musically interesting, Sheryl Crow has an enduring hit with The Globe Sessions that deserves the praise heaped upon it.

As my current Artist Of The Month, I have felt a little disappointed in myself for not being more enthusiastic about some of Sheryl Crow's earlier works. Truth be told, Sheryl Crow has records that are far more average than extraordinary. In the case of Sheryl Crow, she and her management got it very much right when they put together her compilation album The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow. And while I might have thought it was somewhat silly at the time, given how little of a body of work Crow had at the time, she mixes her popular with the best she had at the time remarkably well on that album.

As a result, it is somewhat surprising that I have so much to laud from Crow's album The Globe Sessions. Indeed, had it not been for the fact that her song "There Goes The Neighborhood," which I never heard when the album was ascendant, was on The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow I am sure I would have been pleasantly surprised by it and the sheer number of wonderful songs on this album. Oddly, her compilation album omits her song "Anything But Down," which alone makes The Globe Sessions worth recommending. It is also worth noting that there are at least two versions of The Globe Sessions, one of which includes Crow's cover of "Sweet Child Of Mine." I had access to the original recording, not the one with that cover, so . . .

The Globe Sessions has eleven songs occupying just under an hour (59:29) of music and represents Sheryl Crow's musical and thematic sensibilities. The album is a very pure rock and roll album and Crow wrote six of the songs, co-wrote four of the others and performs a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi." Crow performs a slew of instruments, including guitars, bass, Hammond B-3 organs, percussion and harmonica on the album. On each track, she is credited with playing at least one instrument, though most of them have her playing two to three. Crow also produced the album, so this is very much her musical vision and style being depicted on the album.

For the most part, The Globe Sessions has a classic rock and roll sensibility to it, though some of the songs harken back to a time when there was a Country influence in rock ("It Don't Hurt"). Recognizable tracks that charted on the pop-rock charts include "My Favorite Mistake" and "Anything But Down" and they are indicative of a more moody Sheryl Crow than she presented on her two prior albums. As well, they illustrate a serious side of Crow that she has been developing since the first recording. On this album, Crow uses more bass and percussion and the album rocks.

In fact, the thing that sets The Globe Sessions apart from her two earlier outings is that there are no light, pop songs on the album. "My Favorite Mistake" might have a lilting guitar, but it is depressing and moody. "The Difficult Kind," which could be a post-apocalyptic frontier campfire song, is quiet and sad, but not at all "pop." Similarly "Am I Getting Through (Part I & II)" is dark and sad.

"Am I Getting Through (Part I & II)" illustrates possibly the sole weakness on The Globe Sessions. That song bears a strong resemblance musically to "Stairway To Heaven" and the fact that Crow seems to be derivative of other, obvious classic rock influences is somewhat disappointing. Moreover, instrumentally "My Favorite Mistake," "Anything But Down" and the quirky and wonderful "There Goes The Neighborhood" are all very similar. That said, Crow largely makes an effort to overcome the limitations of being a guitar-dominated album. The end of "Am I Getting Through" has an annoying telephone noise (I swear, it gets me every time!) but it does show some creativity and breaks up the potentially obvious guitar sound well. Some of the songs, like the end of "Am I Getting Through" actually have Crow sounding derivative of more contemporary artists, in that case the guitars sound remarkably like those of Oasis.

Vocally, Crow sounds very pure throughout The Globe Sessions. She is raucous on "My Favorite Mistake," sincere on "Mississippi" and vulnerable on "The Difficult Kind." She tends to stay in her lower range, though on songs like "Everything But Down" and "Riverwide," she goes higher. Crow has the ability to traverse the range from smoky to high remarkably well and on The Globe Sessions, she seems to feel free to soar that way.

Lyrically, The Globe Sessions is generally dark and about endings. Her songs are largely about people and relationships that simply do not fit. Her song "My Favorite Mistake" makes that obvious, but the album hits an all new high of lows when Crow sings "Maybe I'm not your perfect kind / Maybe I'm not what you had in mind / Maybe we're just killing time / You with your silky words / And your eyes of green and blue / You with your steel beliefs / That don't match anything you do / It was so much easier before you became you / You don't bring me anything but down" ("Anything But Down"). Crow has a remarkable sense of imagery that works wonderfully on the album.

In fact, the only song that does not truly work for the album is "Members Only." Even with the more folk or Country performances that define "The Difficult Kind" or "Mississippi," it is "Members Only" that stands out as the one that does not belong. From the plucky opening to the listless lines "And all the politicians shake their asses / Looking for the backdoor / I'll just be hanging out with the lasses / Cause they don't like the boys no more / No and I can't take it anymore" ("Members Only") the song seems more about making rhymes and a generic antisocial statement than actually railing with particular grievances.

Even so, The Globe Sessions has more than enough to engage anyone looking for strong rock and roll coming from a very articulate woman.

For other works by Sheryl Crow, please visit my reviews of:
Tuesday Night Music Club
Sheryl Crow
The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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